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Depth and Breadth: Refugee Crisis Response

October 2, 2015

Four million Syrian refugees in total have sought shelter in neighboring countries, the Middle East, and Europe. UUSC’s response to this crisis examines critical areas along the Syrian refugee migration route where there is a lack of international protection, cooperation, and burden sharing as well as a consistent failure to uphold the basic humans rights of displaced people. UUSC’s work — made possible by generous donations of more than $200,000 to the UUSC-UUA Refugee Crisis Fund — focuses on protecting refugees on the move and helping them access relief, assisting overburdened nongovernmental organizations on the ground in Jordan, and supporting refugee resettlement in the United States.  

Ensuring effective protection and access to relief for refugees moving through Europe

There are currently 8,000 refugees arriving in Europe every day. The Hungarian government has started a dangerous trend in Europe that is undermining basic safeguards for refugees and leading to the deterioration of human rights in the region. Hungary has declared a state of crisis that has led to expanded army power, criminalization of refugees coming through informal channels, deportations of refugees to Serbia (which has been declared unsafe and without structural safeguards for people seeking asylum), and the erection of a border fence.

UUSC has partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Unitarian Church in Hungary to support volunteer relief efforts in collaboration with Hungarian Interchurch Aid. UUSC funding will go directly toward meeting the emergency humanitarian needs of the several thousands of vulnerable Syrian refugees arriving daily by bus, train, and foot. This partnership will provide urgent mental health support and much-needed materials (such as water, hygiene kits, and warm winter clothes) for refugee centers.

UUSC is also focused on promoting safe routes of passage, decent reception of refugees, and effective protection for new arrivals in parts of Europe.

Building capacity of overburdened nongovernmental organizations in Jordan

Jordan has received over 600,000 new refugees since the start of the Syrian Civil War. These refugees face enormous hurdles in accessing basic rights and being welcomed into Jordanian society. Due to insufficient U.N. funding, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Jordan are shouldering the massive burden of providing much-needed relief to refugees.

The challenges refugees face in Jordan are myriad. Many are denied the right to work, due to discriminatory laws restricting certain professions to Jordanian nationals. Others are denied recognition of their marriage licenses or birth certificates by Jordan authorities, since they lost access to those documents when they had to flee Syria. Such vulnerabilities are magnified by a lack of official nationality in the cases of stateless refugees. 

Refugees in Jordan are in a state of limbo, and the situation is on the verge of becoming a protracted crisis of greater proportions. They are facing desperate conditions, including the collapse of funding for the U.N. humanitarian budget, on which so many refugees depend in a country where they are often forcibly denied the ability to earn a living. This has led to severe cuts in basic food and service provision and is prompting ever more refugees to attempt the dangerous journey to Europe. And while Europe ought to take up a much greater share of refugee aid than impoverished Jordan, the voyage to the EU border is extremely perilous and gaining entry to “Fortress Europe” is next to impossible. These refugees have a desperate need for legal recognition and status in Jordan, as they are not likely to be able to leave safely for other host countries or to return home to Syria in the remotely near future.

UUSC funding to organizations in Jordan is therefore primarily focused on the medium- to long-term relief needs for refugees, such as securing the right to legal status and social inclusion as well as building their capacity to act as advocates for their own rights. By helping NGOs on the ground in Jordan, UUSC hopes to improve conditions and legal protections for refugees.

Supporting refugee resettlement in the United States

The recent announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry about the administration’s plans to increase the amount of refugees admitted to the United States is not as generous as UUSC hoped. However, the government will allow an extra 15,000 refugees (for a total of 85,000) this fiscal year and 30,000 more refugees (total of 100,000) the following year.

To support arriving refugees, UUSC will work with grassroots organizations in the United States to safeguard the rights of incoming refugees and ensure their access to education, legal support, work opportunities, and social services.

Update

October 7, 2015: Given the ongoing enormity of the Syrian refugee crisis and the generous initial response from our donors to the UUSC-UUA Refugee Crisis Fund, we are increasing the goal for that fund to $350,000.

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